Ella White students learn by working with their hands

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Ella White Elementary fifth-graders Seth O’Brien and Gracie Baker are looking at crayfish while at 4 Mile Dam with their class on Monday.

ALPENA — Fifth-graders at Ella White Elementary School were at 4 Mile Dam on Monday where they completed studies on different invasive species.

“This allows for learning outside of the classroom,” Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMGLSI) Network Coordinator Meaghan Gass said. “We’re cross-connecting their learning and getting the students out of the classroom and showing them that there are different ways to see their natural resources.”

The students were working at three different stations. At one station, the students were completing studies on zebra mussels where they were applying both math and science. The students will take the zebra mussels and measure and weigh them in the classroom.

At another station, the students were looking at crayfish and were working to determine whether the crayfish they had was a male or female. They will also measure and weigh the crayfish in the classroom.

“I thought the crayfish were cute,” Fifth-grader Thurston Imhoff said. “I have found crayfish in the water before so it wasn’t new for me. Crayfish are bad though because they are invasive to the lakes.”

At the third station, the students were completing water testing to see if there were any microplastics in the water. They were also helping develop a how-to video for how people can trawl for microplastics.

“My favorite thing to do was doing the water testing on the microplastics,” Fifth-grader Madison Shearer said. “We can figure out how many plastics are in the water and how harmful the plastics are while in the water.”

Besides learning about what they were doing in the water, the students were also learning about what careers they could have.

Gass said that each week varies with what they are doing with the students.

“We like to see the students in action and we like to see them have fun,” Gass said.

Huron Pines AmeriCorps and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary were the two network partners who supported the field trip for the fifth-graders.

“My favorite parts from the day were seeing the zebra mussels and using the nets to test for microplastics in the water,” Fifth-grader Cailan Durfee said.

NEMGLSI will be at different schools throughout the week to do hands-on, place-based learning with students and show them how to protect the Great Lakes.

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.